The feeble flicker of the candle which Mr. Penrose held in his hand flung hideous shadows, and lighted up the cave dimly enough to make it more eerie and grotesque. The minister had not searched long before he was startled by a cry—a faint and childish cry:
‘Arto Jenny Greenteeth?’
‘No, my boy; I’m Mr. Penrose.’
‘It’s noan th’ parson aw want; aw want th’ fairy.’
And then the chilled and startled boy was carried down to the men below.
In a moment Oliver o’ Deaf Martha’s seized his boy and wrapped him in the bosom of his coat, hugging and kissing him as though he would impart the warmth of his own life to the little fellow.
‘It’s noan like thee to mak’ a do like that, Oliver,’ said Amos, unmoved, ‘but thaa shaps (shapes) weel.’ And as the child began to cry and struggle, Amos continued, ’Sithee! he’s feeard on thee. He’s noan used to it. He thinks he ought to hev a lickin’ or summat.’
But Oliver continued his caresses.
‘Well, Oliver, I’ve never sin thee takken th’ road afore.’
‘Nowe, lad! I’ve never lost a chilt afore.’
1. A WOMAN’S SECRET. 2. HOW DEBORAH HEARD THE NEWS. 3. ‘IT’S A LAD!’ 4. THE LEAD OF THE LITTLE ONE.
A WOMAN’S SECRET.
On a little mound, within the shadow of her cottage home, and eagerly scanning the moors, stood Miriam Heap. An exultant light gleamed in her dark eyes, and her bosom rose and fell as though swept with tumultuous passion. Ever womanly and beautiful, she was never more a queen than now, as the wind tossed the raven tresses of her crown of hair, and wrapped her dress around the well-proportioned limbs until she looked the draped statue of a classic age. There was that, too, within her breast which filled her with lofty and pardonable pride, for she awaited her husband’s return to communicate to him the royal secret of a woman’s life.
Miriam and Matthias—or Matt, as she called him—had been seven years married, the only shadow of their home being its childlessness. Matt’s prayers and Miriam’s tears brought no surcease to this sorrow, while the cruel superstition that dearth of offspring was the curse of heaven and the shame of woman, rested as a perpetual gloom over the otherwise happy home.
Of late, however, the maternal hope had arisen in the heart of Miriam; nor was the hope belied. To her, as to Mary of old, the mystic messengers had whispered, and He with whom are the issues of life had regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. That of which she so long fondly dreamed, and of late scarce dared to think of, was now a fact, and a great and unspeakable joy filled her heart.
As yet her secret was unshared. Even her husband knew it not, for Matt was away in a distant town, fitting up machinery in a newly-erected mill. Miriam felt it to be as hard to carry alone the burden of a great joy as the burden of a great sorrow. But she resolved that none should know before him, whose right it was to first share the secret with herself; so she kept it, and pondered over it in her heart.